It’s been an unprecedented year for businesses in every industry and few of us will look back on 2020 with fond memories. With the high street being hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown measures, restaurants are enduring difficult times throughout the pandemic.
The good news for food businesses is that they have some unique opportunities to survive – or even thrive – during these difficult times. By looking at Google Search insights for Q3 2020, we can see the lasting challenges restaurants face but also the opportunities waiting to be seized.
Takeaways from Google Search insights
A quick overview of the key takeaways from Google Search data gives an idea of how the year has been for food businesses. The growth in search interest for take-out and delivery is significantly higher than dine-in restaurants and the 30% reduction in clicks from restaurant searches highlights a significant drop in actions taken upon these queries.
26% search growth for dine-in restaurants in Q3 2020
30% reduction in clicks for dine-in restaurants
73% of searches come from mobile
Take-out & delivery
49% search growth for take-out and delivery
74% increase in clicks for take-out and delivery
79% of searches come from mobile
On the other hand, clicks for takeaway and delivery searches soared during Q3 2020, even after lockdown measures were eased in the UK, illustrating the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the industry.
Key search actions & metrics for Q3 2020
Google Search data shows that dine-in restaurant searches saw a 16% reduction in total impressions vs Q3 2020 and a 30% drop in clicks during Q3 2020.
In stark contrast, searches for takeaway and delivery saw a 128% increase in impressions and a 74% increase in clicks.
This data runs from 7 July to 30 September, pointing towards a slow recovery for dine-in eating but it also points towards the key survival strategy in the food industry. Businesses that can provide takeaway and delivery services can offset the damage of lockdowns and social distancing, even if their main source of revenue was dine-in customers before the outbreak.
Restaurants and food businesses that can’t provide these services or transitional towards providing them have a difficult time ahead.
The impact of Covid-19 vs previous years
Another opportunity for restaurants is the apparent desire among the British public to get back to eating out when the opportunity arises.
If you compare search data from 2020 with previous years, you can see the sharp rise of interest as lockdown measures were being eased. This interest has since declined as the outbreak gathers motion once again and local lockdown measures have been introduced, but the urge to get back to normal and enjoy eating out is clear.
The challenge for dine-in restaurants will be ensuring they’re ready to take customers when demand is there and government guidelines allow. Sadly, demand and ability aren’t aligned in this pandemic and this is why capitalising on take-out and delivery is so important – it provides some much-needed stability.
You can see this relative stability in the search volumes of takeaways and deliveries compared to previous years. During normal times, interest is relatively constant, but search volumes rocketed at the high of lockdown as people were unable to eat out and supermarket shelves were sparse.
The most interesting trend, though, is that interest has remained relatively high, even after lockdown measures were eased, and they remain significantly higher than pre-Covid times. It’s fair to expect that interest will increase again as the pandemic worsens during the winter months and local lockdown measures intensify.
Takeaways and deliveries have become an essential service – both for customers and businesses in the food industry.
How can food businesses react?
The search data tells us everything we need to know about the actions food businesses should take during this crisis. Dine-in eating isn’t a sustainable model during the uncertainty of Covid-19 but there is relative stability in takeaway and delivery services. Businesses need to react to changing consumer demands and the good news for food businesses is that they remain relevant and needed throughout this pandemic.
A lot of industries are struggling to find any survival strategy at all but some food and drinks businesses are thriving thanks to the increased demand for delivered food.
The lesson is to listen to consumer demand and keep a constant eye on search data to see how things are evolving. Food businesses that adapt to the current climate will emerge from this crisis in the strongest position. Right now, this means providing takeaway and delivery services, showing customers the measures being taken to keep them and the staff safe and being ready to welcome customers back through the doors when it’s safe to do so.
George Stone is an SEO specialist at Vertical Leap.